By Phil Young
Director of Missions, Knox County Association of Baptists
I have always been fascinated by the image of a potter’s wheel. Something about the way a master potter takes a lump of clay and molds it into a beautiful and useful vessel appeals to me. I think it may be that each piece of pottery is unique. Because it is not “mass-produced” on a machine, no two pieces are the same. Each piece is carefully shaped into what the potter desires it to be.
This came to life for me when I actually got the chance to observe a potter at work on the wheel. He carefully and precisely shaped the clay, paying close attention throughout the entire process. While several of his finished vessels were similar, no two were exactly the same.
There is much to be learned from the imagery of the potter’s wheel when it comes to church revitalization. The “takeaways” from this imagery lesson are numerous, but let me simply suggest three that might clear up some misperceptions about church revitalization:
Church revitalization is not: Just for churches that are dying and without hope.
Church revitalization is: For any and all churches that desire to make a concerted effort to see the mission of the church renewed and moving toward sustainable health.
I know of a church averaging 900 in attendance that is focused on revitalization. We often think church revitalization is about turning around declining and dying churches, but the potter’s wheel teaches us that it is about every church “becoming what the Master Potter desires us to be.”
Church revitalization is not: A “one size fits all” program.
Church revitalization is: A process for each individual church, designed and built upon the unique gifts and context of that specific church.
The problem with “one size fits all” is that it doesn’t. The church revitalization process offers several “pathways” toward revitalization. No single pathway is right for every church. While some approaches may be similar, each process needs to be designed for that local church in its specific context.
Church revitalization is not: A strategy to design the church into what we think it should be.
Church revitalization is: A process of submitting to the hands of the Master Potter, becoming what He desires and shapes us to be.
Church revitalization requires that we submit our preferences, prejudices and pride to the plans Christ has for His church. The first step in any strategy must be submission.
Church revitalization is not a “mass-produced” program to make every church look the same. It is a process for each church to follow as God carefully, precisely, and lovingly shapes them into what He desires. The image of the potter’s wheel keeps us focused on this truth.
If you would like to discuss some pathways that God might lead you and your church to travel in revitalization, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.